Israeli lawmakers dissolve parliament, paving way for April elections

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli lawmakers dissolved the parliament on Wednesday evening, paving the way for early elections on April 9.

The law was passed by 102 of the Knesset’s 120 members and opposed by two.

The vote comes after coalition leaders announced Monday that the general elections, which were originally scheduled for November 2019, would be held early.

For the past month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been struggling with a razor-thin majority of 61 in in the 120-seat parliament, after former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned from the government over the cease-fire with Gaza, taking his Yisrael Beytenu party with him to the opposition.

On the face of it, the straw that broke the camel’s back was a conscription draft law, which Lieberman and Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, said they would not support.

Many commentators, however, believe Netanyahu’s real reason to hold elections as soon as possible is the looming decision by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on an indictment against him, which may contain charges of bribery, fraud and/or breach of trust.

The Justice Ministry responded Monday to reports that Mandelblit’s decision would be delayed by the elections, saying: “The work process on the investigation files regarding the prime minister will continue as planned. It’s an orderly and professional process which is not dependent on political events.”

Various opinion polls have found that Netanyahu, who has been in office since 2009, would once again claim a handy victory as leader of his right-wing Likud party.

A Channel 12 poll published Tuesday night, however, found that though the Likud is far ahead of any other party in the polls, 52 percent of Israelis do not want Netanyahu to be re-elected.

The Likud primary for the party list is set to be held in February.

Netanyahu’s No. 1 slot on the list is guaranteed after he was uncontested in the leadership primary three years ago.

Tzipi Livni, who merged her Hatnuah party with the Labour party to form the Zionist Union in 2014, has called on leaders in the center-left to unite to form a strong bloc.

In an apparent effort to gain as many right-wing voters as possible, Netanyahu met with settler leaders on Wednesday and warned of an “attempt by the left” to take power with the support of “the media and other forces.”

“They must not succeed — if, heaven forbid, they succeed, there will be a clear danger to the settlements,” he warned.

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PHOTO (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194): Benjamin Netanyahu

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